Friday, December 10, 2010

The Frostbite Festival - 10 miles

If you would have told me a few months ago that I would be preparing for a ten mile race in December, I would have thought you were nuts.  For real--absolutely, certifiably looney.  Maybe I'm the one who's nuts?  But here we are, the first week of December and after training for about five weeks, we were getting ready to do it!

I was pretty nervous about this one.  The longest run we'd done prior to that morning was eight miles the previous weekend.  Could I go two miles longer?  I felt great at the end of eight miles, so I was pretty sure that I could.  My main worries going into the race were mostly about the cold and the hills that so many people warned us about.  I hadn't trained on hills much since daylight savings time ended.  It's pretty hilly out by our house, but I couldn't run those roads in the dark.  Our weekend runs had been mostly flat.  Would those hills give me problems?  I guess there's only one way to find out.

Our goal, as with any new distance, was to finish.  What would be a good pace goal?  We were thinking between 9:30 and 10:00 for such a long race.  I'd be happy with that.  We never really paid attention to pace during our long runs, so honestly I didn't know.

About ten days before the race, the weather reports were predicting mid-to-upper 40's and sunny.  I knew it was too good to be true.  As we got closer, the temperature forecasts dropped and wind forecasts increased.  We both busted our budgets to buy new base layers to keep us warm.  I'd say they were well worth it!  We got up that morning to a frosty 14 degrees outside.  It would only get to 24 degrees that day, not to mention the windchill, which would make the "feels like" temperature top out at 11 degrees.

We pulled up to the race location and there were runners everywhere.  As 9:00 a.m. approached, we headed to the starting line.  The crowds of runners packed together getting ready for the start, and after a few announcements, we were off!

The course started in a neighborhood on the west side of Springfield. We wove through the streets of suburban houses and then came down the first major hill to exit the neighborhood.  This one will not be fun on our way back!  We headed out to the major road heading west out of town.  The police department had the roads blocked off from traffic (thank you, officers!).  I'm sure we made many people late for church that morning.  There were several people along the course cheering the all of us on and ringing bells.

We hit the first mile marker and those running two-miles only turned around.  I can't remember our time exactly, but I think it was around nine minutes.  We started fast out of the gates on this one too, but we intentionally slowed it down early because we knew we had a long way to go.  Not long after the first mile marker, we were headed out of town.  The subdivisions fell away and there were more open fields.  The winds didn't have anything to stop them.  As we cross the last major road heading out of town, we start down the first of a series of big, long hills.  Man, I really should have trained on some hills!

The photo taken by Alex.  See that hill we just came down?
We have to go back up on the way back!

At the bottom, the Hardy Breed photographer snaps some shots of us running by, a little further down, Shane's running friend Alex takes a few pictures of us.  What the heck do you do on those types of pictures?  Act natural and don't look at the camera?  Smile and wave?   What?!  Alex cheers us on as we get ready to head back up the big hill.  At the top of the hill, my legs start complaining to me that I didn't properly train for this race.  I can't believe that they are already feeling fatigued, and we haven't even reached three miles.  Lesson learned, I guess.

We pass the people blaring Hawaiian and Beach Boys music wearing grass skirts around mile three.  At about three and a half, we pass the port-o-potty (make a mental note, just in case) and the mini-van blaring Christmas music.  Just about then was when the first race leaders passed us heading back.  The first guy had the lead by a pretty wide margin.  I realized that I didn't like the perception that we were nearing the turn-around that the runners heading the other way caused!  We still had more than a mile to go.  About this time, the first female runner passed us going the other way.

We finally saw the turn-around at mile number five. I don't know what it is about that halfway mark, but it definitely re-energizes a person. It seemed like we picked up the pace a little. As we pass others still heading to the turn-around, it somehow helps to know that we have a shorter way to go than they do. It didn't take long for the number of people still heading that way to thin out. There were a couple of groups of walkers at the very end. I can't imagine what time they will be getting back to the finish line.

It seems that a 10 mile race really raises the caliber of the participants. We were about in the middle of the pack that day. In the 5K races, we finished much closer to the front. I would say that there's probably a lot of people out there who would sign up for a 5K race with little or no training, and many people, especially young people with young legs, could run it without a problem. When you get up to ten miles though, I think there's little chance that the average person could run that without training at least a little bit. I definitely wouldn't advise it.

As we made our way back, I knew those big hills were coming after mile seven. We were still feeling pretty good all things considered. I didn't feel as well as I did after our eight mile run the week before, but I was sure it was due to the hills. I knew I could make three more miles though. We headed down the first big hill. At the bottom, Alex was still there, sitting in his car with his kids. They hopped out when they saw us coming and began yelling and cheering for us. We would need it. We headed back up.

My legs began their protest.  Really?  You really want to run uphill after running for more than seven miles?  We kept pushing. I tried to think of other things.  We shortened our strides and shuffled the long way back up to the top.  Ahhhh, flat road again.  Thank goodness!!  There were only a couple of hills left, and that was the largest and longest one.

We hit mile eight and headed back into town.  We had never ran this far before and it was almost like my body sensed that.  It seemed that all my little aches and pains started to speak up.  My toes and the middle of my left foot seemed to be cramping a little.  I felt something blister-like popping up on the right.  I was feeling a little twinge of pain in the my lower back.  I had the foot/toe aches before, but the back-thing was new.  I kept on pushing through it.  There's only two miles to go.  That's an easy run!

About this time, another runner joined us, and we began talking about races.  He had just done a marathon in Greece.  That would be awesome!  We discussed other things like Colorado and different places we had traveled.  We talked about doing triathlons and what that was like. It was a welcome break from the monotony that we seemed to be in.  It took our minds off the aches that were creeping in.  After a short while, he said he had a little left in him and pulled ahead of us.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the final mile marker.

Only one mile left.  I could barely believe it.  In about ten minutes, we'd be done.  I knew there was one major hill left: the one that I noticed leaving the subdivision.  We reached that hill and pushed ourselves to move forward.  It wasn't as hard as I imagined earlier.  I had a renewed energy knowing that we were so close to the finish.  We got to the top of the hill--no more hills!  It was getting closer, I could feel it.  My feet were really starting to cramp.  A supporter on the corner yells "Great job! Only two blocks left!".  I don't know what happened, but hearing that there were only two blocks, I got even more energy and my pace picked up some more. 

We turned the final corner, and I could see it.  I could see the finish line!  My pace picked up even more.  I wanted to stop running so badly that I began to run as fast as I could with all that I had left.  I ran across the finish with all the cheering supporters there and I was done! 

It felt amazing to stop running and to know what we had just accomplished.  I gave Shane a big hug.  We did it!  We noticed the frozen curls of hair hanging out from beneath his hat reminding us of just how cold it was that day.  For as much as I am a wuss about the cold, the base layers of running clothes made a huge difference!  I highly recommend spending the extra money on them because the cold was the least of my concerns that day.

Finishing this race felt different from the 5Ks.  It was a race of endurance, not of speed.  It was telling yourself that you could do something harder than you previously thought was possible.  The sense of accomplishment was better than I could expect.  I left this race knowing that I would be running the half marathon in April.  Three more miles and four months to prepare seemed totally possible now. 

Official time on this race was 1:43:36, 155th overall, 51st female and 10th in my division.  I'm not going to complain about that at all!
Shane and I with our friend Rick Snow who also ran that day. 
On a side note, Rick had a heart attack ten months earlier.
He is the poster child for heart attack recovery!! 

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